Stars: Andrew-Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt, Ciaran McMenamin, Ruth Kearney, Ben Mansfield, Ben Miller, Alexander Siddig, Ruth Bradley, Jonathan Byrne, Anne Kent, Brian Gleeson, Anton Lesser, Johnny Ward, Mal Whyte, Duncan Lacroix
Writer: Adrian Hodges & John Fay
Director: Robert Quinn
Network: BBC America
Original Telecast: January 29, 2011

A fluctuating anomaly reading draws the special attention of Philip (Alexander Siddig) and leads the team to investigate the evocatively named Witchfield Cove in Episode Five of PRIMEVAL, where the locals have a legend about a giant worm. Where’s Kyle MacLachlan when you need him?

There are also some shady goings-on around town, and while Connor (Andrew-Lee Potts) and Abby (Hannah Spearritt) check into everything, Matt (Ciaran McMenamin) is forced to chase after an abducted Emily (Ruth Bradley). Connor also has an offer he can’t refuse from Philip about joining a secret project at Philip’s lab, Prospero … but can he refuse it after all if it means leaving ARC field work behind?

I was going to talk about how this episode can’t really decide which plot it wants to follow, since it deals with at least three distinct strands that don’t dovetail very much in the first two-thirds. Surprisingly, however, things hang together just enough for all of it to mesh well enough in the final act, although the Emily/Ethan thread – for all its apparent importance as the season-long arc – still feels tacked on. One can only hope it all makes sense by the end, or at least makes an effort at trying to cohere.

The setting is a nice change, taking us out of recurring urban environments filled with glass and chrome and dropping us into a somewhat run down seaside community. There’s even a classic “there’s nothin’ here for the likes of you” moment worthy of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. The local mystery doesn’t really make for much drama, although there is an intriguing variation on anomaly behavior this time around thanks to some inept meddling from the conspiring townsfolk.

There are larger issues brought to the fore this week. For one thing, the scene where Connor and Abby are held at pitchfork-point and have to explain themselves, as well as the moment when Matt and Connor have to leave Abby – alone! – to fight a giant prehistoric worm – just points to the ludicrous level this show has now reached in its depiction of the ongoing ARC project. Granted, they want to try to keep a lid on public knowledge about the anomalies and the creatures.

But with the random nature of the anomalies, hasn’t this already reached a level of danger that demands some sort of public announcement? Even if they’re still going to try to keep things quiet, do they really have to keep sending out just the same handful of civilian operatives with no regular use of military backup and no credentials? One longs for the attempt at semi-realism with Jenny handling PR/damage control again, or perhaps a more UNIT-like approach (from DOCTOR WHO) to the ARC operations is warranted.

Potts also gets a rare moment to emote in a genuinely moving bit when he thinks Abby has been eaten by the worm. When she turns up again, though, their reunion is very awkward and strange. We’ve already been told they’re boyfriend and girlfriend by now, but they sure don’t act like it here. If anything, she seems very reticent to show any emotion while he does his best to contain his. Is she still supposed to be mad at him from last time? If so, it doesn’t come across very clearly.

Then there’s the worm, otherwise known as the Labyrinthodont (an apt name given this episode’s maze-like structure). There’s been a reptilian sameness to the creatures featured this year, with this week’s worm, the boar croc, Tree Creepers, therocephalians, and even the spinosaurus all looking like the same crocodile-headed dinosaur with different body shapes. Since past seasons have covered a wide range of past and future monsters, it seems like even when it comes to the one thing this show does reasonably well – throw CGI animals on screen – they’re running out of ideas. You couldn’t at least get one mammal in there yet, apart from the mammoth cameo? At least the “next week” preview reveals this streak will end, so let’s reconvene then!

CLICK HERE for more PRIMEVAL reviews from Season 4

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